Cloudy With a Chance of Love full movie review - slightly outside the Hallmark envelope... Rady and Leclerc add their own stamp
I love Hallmark films for their predictable formula: single woman-focused screenplay in which too-successful, insufficiently caring "perfect" but workaholic guy must be shed for an authentic man of feeling.
What I especially love are the Hallmark tropes: new guy must be thrown into an early, intense encounter with single girl's parent/s; numerous late model cars must be driven pointlessly around town with elaborate driveway exit scenes; characters' occupations are bipolar business/law vs wedding planning, writing, art. As predictable as this makes a Hallmark, variations on this theme become deeply satisfying, as we watch these elemental themes -- the search for the authentic life, the rejection of empty success, the social pressure for the conventional path, play out again and again. And thus each Hallmark character takes on allegorical significance in this larger search for authenticity.
Hallmark movies remind me of a comment Sana Haque made about the great French writer Roland Barthes' Mythologies: "Barthes deciphers how wrestlers take on tragic or comic "stock" personas for the benefit of their fans and how their exaggerated gestures, drama, and Good vs. Evil conflicts perform a cathartic function for the audience, a venue through which frustrated emotion can find a release and the complexity of modern existence revert to black and white simplicity."
So, in this allegorical frame, Cloudy with a Chance of Love shakes it up a (very) little bit. Here on the road to the authentic life, the sub-theme is change. Katie Leclerc's character, a PhD meteorology student at a mythical San Diego university has spent her life happily in one place, focused on one consuming interest (the heavens). On her heretofore uneventful road to a fellowship and professorship, she now encounters a TV news director, played by Michael Rady, who pulls her toward a huge change when he convinces her to sub as a meteorologist at his station. He even tries eventually to get her to leave San Diego in a two-fer deal to try network news in New York.
Michael Rady has matured from his days of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. In this movie he channels Ken Olin from his Thirtysomething days-- the sensitive and empathetic listener to a well-educated woman's earnestly related hopes and dreams and self-doubts. There's a soulfulness here to Rady's acting that was unexpected and welcome in a Hallmark.While his ambition to go back to network news in New York nearly sinks a budding romance with adorable Leclerc, he manages an unusual Hallmark workaholic accomplishment. He gets the girl despite all that, once he finds his own "authentic" path back to San Diego, and "saves" her by firing her and reconnecting her with her academic destiny.
John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and other towering works of allegory have tread these familiar paths many times before Hallmark screenplays, but how nice it is to turn on the Hallmark channel and watch these characters play out our hopes and fears. When the actors are as sympathetic, and winsome as Rady and Leclerc, and the chemistry believable, it is an evening well spent. It would be great to see both Leclerc and Rady enter the pantheon of Hallmark repeaters-- those actors we love to see in other Hallmark themes and variations.